With Norm Coleman’s lead dropping to 129, everyone gets around to the idea that challenged ballots will decide the recount. The PiPress’ Jason Hoppin notes Franken captured the biggest-challenger crown, picking off 374 to Coleman’s 360. (Was Al listening to FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver?) Forum Communications has the challenge numbers reversed, but says Day Two challenges doubled. With 46 percent recounted, MPR’s Tom Scheck says we’re on pace to re-examine about 1,500 ballots.
The question the media need to answer: Whose challenges are lamer? Given the far-flung recounting, something systematic may be impossible, but we need judgmental field reports. Until then: more “You be the judge” from MPR. The PiPress’ Rachel Stassen-Berger displays Franken’s silliest challenges (from the Coleman camp); the Frankenites haven’t yet presented Norm’s lamest. Hoppin writes that some county officials are tougher on reconciling challenges; one place that is, Ramsey County, keeps finding additional Franken ballots.
Wishing they thought it through the first time: As the recount rolls on, distressed Senate voters now wish they’d voted for the other guy, MPR’s Curtis Gilbert reports. But that other guy varies; distressed Barkley voters wish they’d voted for Franken, distressed Coleman voters wished they’d voted for Barkley, and distressed third-party voters wish they’d picked Norm. Do you folks realize every vote matters? And I’m compelled to say this problem would be solved with Instant Runoff Voting.
The Strib’s Pat Lopez and Bob von Sternberg talk to absentee voters whose choices were rejected. One is a woman with trouble walking; her ballot was spurned because she didn’t give a valid reason for voting absentee. On the one hand, it shows we need no-excuses absentee voting in this state, but on the other hand, do we want to encourage this overly risky system?
The Strib’s Jean Hopfensperger says the McKnight Foundation’s assets plummeted from $2.3 billion to $1.6 billion in the market crash. And that was only through October! The Bush Foundation’s planners did better: $900 million declined to $800 million. Giving won’t slide nearly that much — I guess that’s what asset cushions are for. Still, there won’t be more cash as needs soar. This is a big story, given how dependent Minnesota institutions are on foundation giving.
It’s a bit like shutting the barn door after the cow escaped, but Minnesota A.G. Lori Swanson proposes mandatory mediation in foreclosure cases. Home-disowners could get banks to the table with hopes of modifying loans, the PiPress’ Christopher Snowbeck writes. Minnesota had a similar program for the ’80s farm crisis, but establishing ownership of the current mortages is frightening. “Pension funds in China?” Who even knew China had pension funds?
Tiny Hampton, Minn., has elected the nation’s first Liberian-American mayor, the PiPress’ Nick Ferraro reports. It’s not an out-of-nowhere story; Paye Flomo has been on the city council since 2003 and lived here since 1985.
Call it Sonia’s Law; a Golden Valley DFL legislator wants to fill a jaw-dropping gap in state law by criminalizing misuse of state funds, the PiPress’ Bill Salisbury writes. Prosecuters couldn’t pursue disgraced MnDOT bureaucrat Sonia Pitt for allegedly spending $26,000 on personal purchases when she was out of town during the bridge collapse. Two DNR officials who misspent $289,000 for a game warden conference also went uncharged.
As the state’s unemployment rate hits 6 percent, and 7,500 jobs evaporate in October, MPR devises the “Job Pain Index.” It’s worth checking out, but I think the “pain” line should rise when things get tougher, not fall. And things are getting tougher. The Strib’s Mike Meyers notes auto dealers alone shed 2,000 jobs, about 6 percent of their state workforce. One expert predicts the state’s jobless rate will hit 7.5 percent.
But jobs are great to have, and some are better than others! U President Bob Bruininks $733,421 annual compensation ranks seventh among public university presidents, the Strib’s Jenna Ross writes. He’s proposed a freeze on top employee pay, but some think tougher times call for a cut from such lofty levels. Basketball coach Tubby Smith still makes more than Bob.
She won’t be the nation’s second lady, so Mary Pawlenty becomes “director of medical diplomacy” for Children’s HeartLink, the PiPress reports. The group fights heart disease in developing countries; Pawlenty, an ex-judge and -mediator, will work 90 percent time.
You know the economy is in the crapper when a new Trader Joe’s can’t find financing. A mall operator’s bankruptcy will keep the trendy grocer out of Ridgedale, the Strib’s Susan Feyder writes.
Self-fulfilling prophecy: Strib’s front page asks, “Does Jolie have the media wrapped around her finger?” Well, certain newspaper editors at least.
Nort spews: Ex-Gaborik sidekick Pavol Demitra helps Vancouver beat the Wild 3-2; the Canucks now lead Minnesota by three points in the Northwest Division, though Vancouver has played three more games.